Cho Polu, First Official Ascent. Our team was composed of Dieter Rüelker, Guenter Jung, Dr. Olaf Rieck and myself as leader. On October 13, we started from Kathmandu, reaching Lukla by airplane and continuing on via the normal trekking route to Namche Bazar in a few days of reasonably good weather. On October 18, just as we reached Dingboche, it started to snow heavily, forcing us to stop for two days before continuing via Chukhung to Island Peak (Imja Tse) Base Camp. On the last ten kilometers we broke trail through one meter of snow and dug out a path for the yaks with shovels (while lots of trekking groups waited behind us to enjoy the fruits of our work when it was done). On October 23 and 24, the yaks reached the porter shelter near Island BC, but were not able to continue further to Island Peak or even Cho Polu BC. We lost three more days carrying the loads by ourselves before establishing our BC on the moraine east of Island Peak on October 26 at about 5200 meters.
Two days later we started our first reconnaissance, but due to the vast amount of snow on the Lhotse Shar Glacier it took us until November 1 to reach the base of the mountain. We approached from the west and put in a line on the west face of the col (“Hardie’s Col,” 6183m) on November 1 after two days of climbing under continuous avalanche danger. Due to really bad snow conditions and unstable cornices, continuing via the north ridge to the summit would have been like playing Russian roulette. One day of reconnaissance on the ridge resulted in nothing other than cold fingers in the incredible winds. Stormy weather with heavy winds (but no snowfall) and not enough food for a longer summit attempt forced us to descend to Base Camp. We left two tents and some cooking and climbing equipment at Hardie’s Col.
After three rest days in Base Camp, we reached our camp at Hardie’s Col once more, this time with enough food for a longer stay during our summit attempt. The next day we descended down the east side of Hardie’s Col, rappelling about 80 meters down onto a plateau of the Barun Glacier, at which point we crossed the glacier hollow through deep snow and reached the bergschrund on the north face of Cho Polu. We found excellent snow conditions on the steep wall above the bergschrund, and so we climbed 100 meters, fixed two ropes and returned to our High Camp, reaching it in darkness. The next morning, November 12, we started at 4 a.m., reached the bergschrund at 6 a.m. at dawn and climbed up our fixed ropes, taking them with us after reaching the highest point of the previous day’s reconnaissance and continuing toward the summit. We climbed a direct line up the center of the north face, passing some seracs and small crevasses in the upper part of the wall. The whole face was about 600 meters high and up to 60 degrees. Because of -25°C temperatures and excellent ice conditions, we climbed unroped without belaying. Sixty meters below the summit cornice, we turned slightly to the right, gained a big crevasse and used the lower lip of this crevasse as a natural traverse line to reach the north ridge. A few steps on the broad ridge brought us to the summit of Cho Polu (6734m). Incredibly good weather with low winds and a fantastic view over hundreds of summits was waiting for us, and so we spent more than one hour on the very top, taking a 360-degree panoramic photograph and several hundred telephoto shots of the neighboring mountains. The ascent took us about four hours from the bergschrund, the descent via the same route two hours. We reached our camp at Hardie’s Col late in the afternoon and over the next two days descended down to BC with all the equipment. Climbing on the sunny west face of Hardie’s Col was still much more difficult and dangerous than on Cho Polu’s north face because of the snow conditions Reaching BC on November 14, we completed our successful ascent of Cho Polu by all four team members. Before leaving BC on November 19, we celebrated Dieter Rüelker’s 60th birthday on November 17 by making a short ascent of Island Peak in three hours from BC.
Markus Walter, Alpinclub Sachsen, Germany